Interview with the Seychelles Nation

In the following interview with Celia Ponzo, founder of Birth & Beyond, Seychelles NATION learns more about a new Doula support service that will soon be available to women and their partners.

Ms Ponzo has a Bsc in Medical Anthropology and a Masters in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She recently trained to be a Maternal Support Practioner, also known as a Doula.

She has been in Seychelles since 2012 and has an 18-month old daughter with her Seychellois fiancée.

Seychelles NATION: Tell us about the services that you will offer through Birth & Beyond and how your clients will benefit from these.

Celia Ponzo: This project is about providing prenatal, birth, breastfeeding and post-partum services. It will provide mothers to be with the support they need during their pregnancy. I will help them and their partner prepare for their birth emotionally and physically as well as educating them, always using the latest scientific evidence surrounding pregnancy and birth.

I am present at their birth should they wish to have me as a continuous support and of course during the post-partum period. My services for this post-partum period include breastfeeding support, screening for mental wellness and also creating the support system that women need for the first months in their transition to motherhood.

Seychelles NATION: You mentioned that the idea for this business started with your own pregnancy. Tell us more about this journey and what led you to this point.

Celia Ponzo: My pregnancy was the best moment in my life; I felt physically, emotionally and spiritually at my best than I ever did.

Despite my pregnancy going so well, I was terrified to give birth. I thought that I could never go through the pain of giving birth after everything that I had seen or heard about giving birth.

I was so determined to find a way to get over my fear. As I researched into it, I found out about doulas and the support they give, which completely changed my whole perception of birth.

My doula empowered me to trust my body and that gave me full confidence that I was able to give birth without pain. I was so amazed of how much I had been brainwashed by negative stories about birth that I forgot that we as women were designed to give birth. The more I learnt from her, the more I wanted to tell every woman out there about it! I learnt so much about the physiology of birth and my partner and I felt completely ready and fully confident.

We prepared so much for our child’s birth that we completely missed out on preparing for the post-partum period. I felt a little lost here when it came to turning to professional post-partum support. This is why I focus on birth and BEYOND; I go beyond birth in my support. I do believe this is probably what is lacking the most here in Seychelles. It is a unique period in a woman's life and the appropriate care is essential. I hope to really offer this to all women.

Seychelles NATION: Some people think a doula is a midwife. Can you explain the differences? What exactly is the role of a maternal support practitioner / doula?

Celia Ponzo: It is very important for me to educate people at this stage about what I do. Often people think I am a midwife with some hippy side to her. This is not the case!

A maternal support practitioner is professionally trained and often, one needs some experience in maternal services. We have very different trainings to a midwife. I do not perform any medical procedures, I do not deliver babies and most importantly, I do not replace a midwife.

I give informational, emotional and physical support to mothers, couples and new parents. I am there to provide them with all the evidence that they need to feel empowered at their birth. I give them emotional support during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period.

I am specialised in providing mothers-to-be with breastfeeding education as well as physically helping them if they have difficulties at the beginning. I am there to diagnose postpartum issues and support mothers in the transition to motherhood. I am there to humanize birth and the precious moments after.

I feel I am different to other doulas overseas as I do have a public health background, so I am very strong on the science of everything. Everything is based on science as I feel evidenced-based care is the future of medicine. It is very important that we are constantly referring to science which is constantly updating itself.

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